Accompanied by bagpipes, the Class of 2003, graduate students, and faculty marched from Morgan Lawn to Chapin Hall for Saturday’s Convocation. Down to the robes they wore, the walk foreshadowed the procession the students will make later in June for Commencement. The ceremony marked the official beginning of the end for the Class 0f 2003. The mood was buoyant in Chapin Hall at Saturday’s Convocation ceremony as the audience listened to speakers and student performances.
In his introductory remarks, President Schapiro emphasized the continuing responsibility of seniors to take advantage of opportunities at Williams. Schapiro encouraged the seniors to challenge themselves, suggesting that students take tutorials and get to know their professors and fellow students.
“Be proactive. Your time remaining in the Purple Valley is quickly passing by,” said Schapiro.
Speaker Bethany McLean ’92 also encouraged students to appreciate their time at the College. McLean, a reporter for Fortune Magazine, was the first journalist to openly question the value of Enron, Inc. in March 2002, shortly before the corporation went bankrupt. In her address, she praised her liberal arts education and credited her time at Williams for her current success. The subsequent discovery of questionable accounting procedures at Enron became one of the biggest stories of the past year and led to a national debate on corporate ethics. McLean cited curiosity and ability to critically weigh arguments in the success of her Enron investigation.
“A lot of people wondered how Enron was making money, but no one was willing to question it out loud,” she said. “Enron created mystique – if you were smart, if you were in the in crowd, you were supposed to get it.”
Reassuring students about their prospects after graduation, McLean emphasized her own non-linear career path. McLean told the audience that she took her first job at Goldman Sachs because the application did not require a cover letter. She started out at Fortune magazine only three years later as a fact checker, hired in part due to the skills reading balance sheets – a skill that later came in handy when she was investigating Enron.
“If I have one regret [about senior year], it’s that I spent too much time obsessing over what I was going to do next – enjoy your last year here,” McLean advised seniors.
“I liked the message- there’s hope for us all,” said Jasmine Mitchell ’03 of McLean’s story. The talent of the senior class was highlighted throughout the ceremony with the recognition of the newly inducted members of the Phi Beta Kappa Society for 2003 and musical performances by Emmy Valet ’03, Vivien Shotwell ’03, and Joo-Hee Suh ’03.
In addition, Aaron “AJ” Jenkins ’03, received the distinguished Grosvenor Cup Award for outstanding service to the community and his class. Jenkins is a member of the Gospel Choir, Gargoyle Society, Kusika, Sankofa, the Black Student Union, and was integral to the success of the Where Am I? and SPARC orientation programs for first-year students. In the past, Jenkins has served as a mentor for local children and students in the A Better Chance (ABC) program, which brings children from urban areas to attend school in Williamstown.While presenting the award, Dean Roseman repeated seniors’ comments about AJ.
“He is always there to listen,” she quoted. “What keeps him busy is concern for other Williams students. Everything he does is done with great passion and commitment.”
Jenkins cites his upbringing by a single working mother as a profound influence on his current success.
“My mother’s ability to raise me and the opportunity to come to Williams would not have been possible without the assistance of others,” he said. “Since I have been given so much from educational opportunities and talents, I have an obligation to share that with others.”
His fellow students clearly agreed – Jenkins accepted his award to a standing ovation.
“To me, AJ is one of the biggest reasons why Williams is a great place,” Sharifa Wright ’03 said.
For many seniors, however, the symbolism of gathering in robes with the rest of the class and faculty present was the most rewarding part of Convocation. Ching Ho ’03, College Council co-president, reminded seniors to take advantage of their last year together.
“Even when we go out into the big world, we still have our little world, the Purple Valley. As long as we make each other part of ourselves, this beginning will have no end,” said Ho.
The ceremony closed with students swaying and dancing to “The Mountains,” before joining the rest of the college community on Sawyer lawn for an all-campus picnic.